Senate Pres Introduces New Sick Leave Legislation

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State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) proposed a new sick leave reform bill Monday. Sweeney’s bill S-1564 eliminates supplemental compensation for accumulated unused sick leave earned after the bill’s effective date but freezes existing compensation earned.

The Governor conditionally vetoed legislation last year A3211/S2220/A3392 (Casagrande/Sarlo/Lampitt/Albano) that would have capped the payout for accrued unused sick leave at $15000 for those with accrued sick leave valued at less than $15000; for those with sick leave amounts exceeding the $15000 their amount would have frozen compensation at the accrued amount that existed at the end of the current collective bargaining agreement (Governor Conditionally Vetoes Sick Leave Cap Legislation December 10 2010).

The Governor’s veto required among other items employees to draw down from their accumulated time as they proceed forward before using any newly awarded sick time.

In ensuing negotiations between the Governor’s office the original sponsor Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) reduced the $15000 amount to $7500 but did not modify the original bill’s language which allowed those with sick leave amounts exceeding the threshold amount to drawn down from their accumulated time.

The Governor held firm in his opposition to Sarlo arguing that the Democrats’ initiative was arbitrarily capping the cash payout for unused sick days. Christie said Sarlo was arbitrarily choosing numbers for a benefit that has nearly become extinct in the private sector. Christie maintained his stance that a “zero means zero” policy was required here.

A Statehouse source told PolitickerNJ that negotiations over a sick leave compromise began in earnest last year but were dragged down due to union opposition. Sweeney the source said had had enough and Christie is glad.

The Senate President’s measure does not require the drawdown which was a provision expected to be challenged and overturned in court.

“Over a year ago the governor vetoed a bill on sick leave that his own administration crafted” Sweeney said in a statement. “Millions of dollars in sick leave time have been accrued because of the governor’s action and unwillingness to compromise money that will have to be shelled out by the taxpayers of this state.

“I want to commend Senator Sarlo and (lower chamber sponsor) Assemblywoman (Pamela) Lampitt for their dedication on this issue. I look forward to working with them on this new legislation” he said. “The bottom line is we aren’t going another year without seeing this issue resolved. I know that no one especially the taxpayers of New Jersey want to see that happen.”

Governor’s Response

The Governor voiced support for the measure following a town hall meeting in Westfield February 8.

“Now I think he and I will be able to find areas on compromise” the governor said noting some “minor” differences in the bill and the administration proposal laid out in Christie’s conditional veto of Sarlo’s original reform bill. One of the “minor” points of divergence Christie said was concerning terminal leave.

Christie told Politicker that both the Senate President’s and his staff were talking about the bill “as we speak.” It is he said “another example of how he and I are working together to bring bipartisan (changes in Trenton).”

NJPSA will keep you updated with further information and requests for action once more information becomes available.

Source: PolitickerNJ